Memorial Day. I cannot remember if I have ever written anything about Memorial Day on or near Memorial Day. Just to cover my bases, here is a post on Memorial Day about the Memorial Day I am experiencing.
I began and mostly finished a long, somewhat detailed post honoring family members and friends who spent time as warriors defending the honor of the United States. It was in the neighborhood of 2500 words at least. The whole time I was writing it my focus was on telling their story instead of honoring their sacrifice. I finished it, checked it over, and set it in the out tray I keep handy somewhere in my mind. I had every intention of just punching "publish" and then moving on with my day.
I made the mistake, which I often do, of one last proofread this morning with my first cup of coffee. Halfway through, I stopped reading and started a new post, which you see right here in front of you. All those other words I wrote yesterday for today are headed to the trash can. I didn't slave over them or anything. I don't slave over words. Writing words are a pleasure and there are always more where the trashed ones came from.
So, its Memorial Day and I would like to honor some family and a friend for their efforts to defend our country and its ideals.
Uncle George - WW II - Was a B-17 pilot captured by the Japanese when the Philippines fell on my birthday, April 9, 1942. He survived beatings, starvation, disease, the Bataan Death March and the Hell Ships. He was freed weighing in at less than 100 pounds in the Fall of 1944. Though he lived another 44 years, he was never the same, emotionally or physically. He may not have died, but he certainly sacrificed of his body and soul for us.
Uncle Herb - WW II - Spent his war island hopping in the Pacific as a Marine. He never once opened his mouth about his experience in my presence. I tried to quiz him when I was maybe ten and my brain was chock full of damn the torpedoes, John Wayne heroic fantasies I had enjoyed at Saturday matinees. I remember him just sitting for some moments and then quietly saying something like, "Nobody should have to experience war." And that was all I ever got out of him. My aunt did say, after he returned from the Pacific he never slept more than three or four hours a night the rest of his life.
My father -WW II - An Army Air Corp observation pilot who came through WW II unscathed physically. The mental and emotional price, well, he came out of his thirty-one year Air Force career an Old Grand Dad whiskey bottle a day alcoholic. He lived life hard and kept his military tales to himself. Stiff upper lip shit. He was indeed a tough man.
Brother Doug - Vietnam years - Doug lucked out I guess. He missed Nam and spent his time in the Army mostly in Germany translating radio transmissions from East Germany to other parts of the globe. But serving is serving and his time and efforts deserve some props just like the others.
Rich, my junkie buddy - Vietnam Years - When I had fallen into the dark world of intravenous drug use in the summer of 1970, I bought some smack from a fellow who was just back from Vietnam a few months earlier. We became needle buddies. He had gotten hooked in Nam and constantly whined about the quality of the Heroin in the States, but would never talk about his time or what he did in Nam. One day I climbed on the back of Rich's 440 BSA one lung-er and rode down with him to Dupont Circle in DC and scored some H. He dropped me off at home and then motored out of my life. He was found dead the next day with a needle still in his arm.
I always felt Rich gave his life for us, it just took him until he had been home a couple of years.
Bobbie my nephew - Iraq- 2005 - Perhaps losing Bobbie was the biggest blow to me. He and my daughter Lis were only months apart in age. I will always remember him as a child and never as a man. And that always makes me deeply sad.
These are the people in my life whose lives were profoundly changed by America at War. These are the people in my life who willingly took that challenge on their shoulders and carried it as far as they could.
That's it I guess; my token gesture this Memorial Day to help me and anyone who reads this to understand that no matter how we feel about war, we all owe someone who went to war a deep gratitude for standing up for us when their time came.
Keep it 'tween the ditches ...........................................
Its a two fer this post. Otherwise - "Soldiers" and The Doors - "The Unknown Soldier"